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Meet the Editors: Taylor Elise


Four mimosas in and stoked to be this close to a macaw



Hey Taylor, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi everyone, I’m Taylor Elise. I’m from and live in West Texas, and I work at a university as an analyst - I confirm whether a student is clear for graduation. It’s very rewarding and sometimes stressful, but I kind of think you need both in a job. I live with my boyfriend (his name is Tayler too—funny huh?) and his four year old daughter lives with us half of the time. My two kitties, Archer and Khaleesi, came with me when we moved and they love their new cat dad, but are sometimes (reasonably) wary of the erratic toddler.


From left to right: Khaleesi, Archer, the baby girl, and the boyfriend



Remember when you read the little one a story out loud in our workshop group? That was the cutest. So of course you’re a writer and a literature fan, but what are some of your other hobbies and interests?

Reading her a bedtime story is totally my favorite part of the day. I have way too many interests for the amount of time I have. I like consuming stories in almost any format: books, film, television, and video games. I enjoy role playing games the most, but I also like strategy games. I also like playing nerdy board games with friends and family - not monopoly, more like Settlers of Catan, 7 Wonders, or Sigrada. I really like Dungeons & Dragons too, but haven’t played in a few years.


I also like traveling and seeing new places. Growing up in a family of five, it was a lot cheaper to drive places than it was to fly, so we took a lot of long road trips. I still love them because you’re more connected to the journey the whole time—there are lots of cool things on the drive between A and B. I don’t bat an eyelash at a two day road trip. I like being outdoors, whether it's hiking, car camping, or backpacking—though I don’t go as often as Hannah and I am not nearly as experienced as her haha.



Now as any millennial knows, the only way to really understand someone is to know their personality type. So how do all those personality tests—created by people who don’t know you—define you?

Enneagram Type: Type 9 (Peacemaker)

Myers Briggs: INFP-A (Mediator) Are you seeing a trend here?

Astrological Sign: Pisces. I know this is a water sign and that’s about it for Astrology.


Well we might as well just end the interview now right? What more is there to know? Just kidding, there’s at least one thing those tests won’t tell us—your go-to food order.

This is probably not a unique answer, but pizza. If it wasn’t horrible for me and my digestion, I could probably eat pizza for every meal. I’m also a fan of a Chick-fil-A sandwich (no pickles) and some waffle fries. Also, breakfast tacos.



Now we’re craving some good ol’ Texas breakfast tacos! We want to know more about how you further your own growth. You’ve graduated, and while you’re still working at a university, you’re not really in an academic setting anymore. So how do you foster your own personal learning and growth?

For the most part, I read. Books, E-books, and audiobooks can provide a wide range of information, both practical and introspective. The nature of my work allows me to listen to audiobooks at my desk. I read all sorts of fiction, as well as memoirs and books about productivity and business. I’m really interested in how our psychology and background affects how we operate in everyday life and our coping mechanisms when things get stressful. Memoirs of those with different backgrounds than mine really intrigue me and I like reading books like The Power of Habit that uses psychological research to improve lives.


Everyone has blind spots when it comes to their own behavior, and it’s difficult to truly know yourself. I try to constantly recalibrate by reading, communicating effectively with my partner (we try! haha), and meditating (sitting still for five minutes is a lot harder than it looks).


I’ve recently been interested in the MasterClass series and a real estate class by one of my favorite financial podcasters, Afford Anything, though I have not pulled the trigger on either yet.


Let’s dig a little deeper into the topic of learning. What’s something you’ve learned—something you’ve failed at, but allowed to shape you?

I’ve failed (and learned a lot about) school and some romantic relationships. I was never a super strong student, not because I didn’t like to learn (I love to), but because I had attention issues with my ADD and honestly didn’t like the work. I didn’t understand the point of most of it, and it felt like a bunch of busy work. I coasted through high school and community college (I think I even made the dean’s list one time), but when I transferred to Texas Tech University (TTU), I underestimated the workload. The things that worked before weren’t working. I made a lot of C’s and even more D’s.


At the beginning of a spring semester at TTU, I went through a rough breakup. I was the dumpee and it sucked hard. I lied to myself a lot that semester, skipping class and thinking that everything would be okay.I walked into class one day and was handed a test that I had no idea about, though I probably would have, had I read the syllabus. That was my wake up call. After guessing at every answer and turning in that pitiful exam, I went home and got online to drop all of my classes. It was after 5 PM business hours and I had a hold on my account that I hadn’t seen. I quickly emailed to resolve the issue, but I realized that day was the last day to drop. The hold was removed the next day, one day too late. I failed 15 hours of classes that semester. It was embarrassing, but it really changed my work ethic and perspective with work in general. After 7 years in college, I did finally graduate, so in the end it was a success, but I definitely learned some hard lessons there.



Now let's talk writing...was there a moment you knew that you wanted to be a writer?

I knew that I wanted to write stories from a pretty young age. In elementary, we were able to make our own book every year with guidance from our teacher and it was probably my favorite thing I did in school. On my own, I was perpetually writing a fantasy story on my mom’s computer, but I kept changing the beginning over and over, never really progressing.


I struggled in high school to know what was next. I didn’t really plan where I went to college and I didn’t know what I wanted to study, but I knew I wanted to go. I assumed creative writing wasn’t at all profitable and in some ways, I thought it lacked prestige. My mom helped me pick what I loved, what my heart had already chosen, and I am so thankful for her wisdom in that. With her blessing (something a lot of artists do not receive), I chose an English major with a concentration in creative writing. I minored in History, and later added a minor in Philosophy. I really enjoyed studying those subjects too.



Look ma, I'm a published author!



A true woman of the arts! As many of us have heard, good writers are good readers, so what are some of your favorite works?

Novels:

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

This book broke me into a new person. I do not cry about books for the most part, but I lost it with this one.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams

This series is hilariously witty and absurd, and much better than the movie (as with almost all books).


Short Stories:

“Bullet in the Brain” by Tobias Wolff

“A Temporary Matter” by Jhumpa Lahiri


Poems:

“The Pruned Tree” by Howard Moss

“My Love for You is So Embarrassingly” by Todd Boss

Lady Lazarus” by Sylvia Plath

“Song of the Anti-Sisyphus” by Chen Chen

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota” by James Wright



As a writer yourself, what subjects do you tend to write about, do they mirror things you read or do you write your own script (pun horribly intended)?

This is a hard question to answer, as I feel like I’m all over the map. I think the easiest and most cliché way to answer is that I write what I feel like writing. I write a lot about failed romantic relationships because I have a lot of experience with that and I have an emotional connection to that topic, but it’s not all that I write. I like writing both contemporary and speculative fiction, and I love writing (and reading) magical realism.



We all “write what we know” in some way don’t we? So tell us about your work in progress.

I’m currently working on a Science Fiction novel that has Space Opera and Military Science Fiction elements. The novel follows the main character, Lorel Sims, as she traverses the vast universe to rescue her lover from the front lines of a war that neither believes in. My goal is for this novel to mirror a lot of the themes and situations found in Homer’s Odyssey. We’ll see how that goes!



A lot of writers hold their writing spaces as sacred in some way or other. Are there any essentials you tend to keep in your writing space?

1. Paper and something to write on. I make notes within my word documents, but I also like to jot down ideas that are overarching or things for later in the story. I also write faster than I type, so that’s how I write down feedback during workshops.


2. Something to eat or drink. I usually make myself a cup of a clove and cinnamon black tea, but I also love Topo Chicos and other flavored sparkling water. Snacks are usually chips or some kind of finger food like that. Those treats make me look forward to writing.


3. My phone. It can be a detriment sometimes, but I like using the timer on it for word sprints. For those who haven’t heard of them, they are quick 10-20 minute writing sessions where you don’t self edit or ponder the right word, you just write. I exclusively write with word sprints, because having that focused, concentrated time helps me put words on the page and keeps my Attention Deficit Disorder at bay.



Taylor's workspace, complete with little Corvo from Dishonored and Hitchhiker's Guide wallpaper


Word sprints can work wonders, especially if you’re feeling a little “stuck” in a section of your work and need to get some forward momentum. Now let’s shift to Steel House Review...How did you come into the SHR family?

I was in the second round of applicants for an independent workshop that some TTU students put together because they wanted a more in depth workshopping experience with focused, tenacious writers to push each other forward.


It was so refreshing to engage with passionate writers that looked you straight in the eye and told you what they really thought of your work: the good, the bad, the ugly. We would drink beer at a local bar’s empty party room (one of our members knew the owner) and offer honest, thorough feedback of each other’s work. The group gave me direction that I didn’t even know I needed.


That workshop and its mission is the foundation of Steel House Review, and though members have come and gone, their work helped shape this journal and I am very blessed to be their friends and peers.


A strong community of writers can be so helpful in motivating and pushing your work forward. With three of you on staff, why did you choose to be an editor for the poetry and fiction forms at SHR?

Short Answer: I suck at creative nonfiction haha.

Longer Answer: I have a lot more experience with writing (and reading) poems and fiction, much more than creative nonfiction, so I feel comfortable reviewing those two forms. I have attempted to write creative nonfiction a few times, but it wasn’t very successful. I feel I need much more practice. I find that it’s hard for me to write about the things closest to me in a linear format.


When you receive poetry and fiction submissions, what tends to result in a publication rejection that writers should be conscious of?

I see a lot of submissions that do not adhere to the submission guidelines, which is always an automatic rejection. It is par for the course to read the guidelines and adhere to them. I have seen short stories that are longer than our word count limit, and I have seen several submissions that are basically an entire collection of poetry, when our maximum is three poems. It illuminates a lot about the writer, and not in a good way. Follow instructions!


Great feedback. Now to end on a note of encouragement, if you could offer one lesson you’ve learned as a student and as a writer to others in the creative writing space, what would it be?

How simple the truth is about writing well. It is the most boring, tired, overused, cliché thing I’ve ever heard: Keep writing. It’s said so much in the writing world that I ignored this fact (either consciously or unconsciously), but that is basically the most important thing. The more you write, the better you will become. You can learn a lot from reading other acclaimed writers and going to workshops and getting feedback, but you will never learn if you don’t write. It is a really simple truth, but a hard one. I’m constantly grappling with this and I’m always striving for better discipline--getting my butt in the chair and typing those words.




Taylor Elise can be found on Twitter | Instagram | Facebook


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